Tuesday 3 June 2008

Nigeria: Removing influence from selecting the cabinet

The President and his cabinet

This is where President Yar’Adua needs to begin to assert authority as the executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that he has the final say about how he runs his cabinet and who he invites into that fold.

It is understandable that we have had to bear the cross of the rottenness of federal character that ensures representation at the federal level is evenly distributed across all states regardless of size, representation or population – in my view it is becoming a nightmare.

One of the problems there is, we end up with space-filling jobbers rather than the best qualified Nigerians for jobs that require competence, initiative, vision, discipline, principles and hopefully, less politics.

Too many pools very few talent pools

In fact, I would rather we had the original 12 States such that the pool of talent can be better gathered, but the tendency to tribalism and unidentifiable clans would almost always get in the way, because there are still some that believe that a job is best filled with sycophants and through nepotism rather than by merit.

Certain thugs who think they are leaders want to be able control the bodies they have put in these posts such that they can exact undue pressure and obtain favours in gratitude for endorsing under-qualified people who by rights should never be in those positions and they, the appointees know it.

But mostly there is this chauvinistic, Barbarian tendency for the power-brokers to wield political influence – there has to be chest-beating that ends with the ultimate putdown – I put you in your position you must respect me. It is a completely corrupt enterprise.

Now, it appears at the beginning of the second year of President Yar’Adua’s tenure, he has the opportunity to reshuffle his cabinet, boot out non-performers, reassign the talents and bring in fresh faces. We might expect a Government of all Talents (GOATs to be unkind).

The political system we have in Nigeria means that selection for ministerial posts would mostly go to card carrying members of the ruling party and a few stellar Nigerians we cannot afford to ignore as state quotas are filled up.

Busybody state governors

I am not surprised that state governors in some ways would want to have some say in the selection but really what they should be doing is offering a list of names and allowing the President to make his choices – they should not be promoting particular affiliations or associations – in fact, my fear is that they might have promised to guarantee posts for representatives of their state – that kind of attitude has to stop.

The cabinet is the President’s means of ensuring that his vision and the programmes of his party are executed by people he can trust, who have the competence to carry through their brief and excel in delivering results for the people of Nigeria without guile or dissimulation.

I cannot understand how the performance of a minister can be measured by the pork that has been delivered to their home states rather than what has been done for Nigeria as a whole.

Delivering pork is the work of the legislature, they are the direct representatives of their states and constituencies – ministers have a broader brief and state representation is the least significant of those.

The President’s prerogative

In fact, I do not see why the state governors should have to get on with the ministers from their states, the relationship should be benign and of no influence if any – state governors have enough on their plates to govern their states and bring results closer to the people with their commissioners than to be nosing around in the federal cabinet.

It should be the exclusive remit of the President and his advisers to determine which minister has not held their brief with competence or not performed, regardless of the state the minister represents or the concerns of the nosily idle governors.

He should put his foot down on this matter and the governors that feel so slighted because they cannot get their way should get busy with their day jobs, else the rule of law and the protection of the essence of our federalism should be the book thrown at them and the matter.

We have greater matters to deal with about Nigeria and we have to begin to accept that not every kinsman is the best qualified to perform if we are to build Nigeria into the great nation we all believe that it is.


Nigerian Tribune – The cabinet reshuffle rumours

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